For the first time in history, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has listed the North American Bumble Bee as an endangered species.
Rebecca Riley, the senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) explained that by placing bumble bees in the endangered list, the species can have the opportunity to improve in numbers as well as save the major agricultural and dietary crops in America.
“Bee populations—including thousands of species of wild bees—are in crisis across the country, and the rusty patched bumble bee is one of the most troubling examples,” Riley explained in a statement. ” Today’s decision is a critical step forward. If finalized, the endangered species protections will improve the health of our ecosystem as well as the security of our national food supply,” Riley added.
The NRDC estimates that the number of bumble bees have decreased by over 80 percent, which is troubling. In fact, the White House reports that the economic value of the bumble bees and other pollinators are estimated to be $9 billion per year in the United States alone.
What are Bumble Bees?
Bombus affinis, also known as the rusty patched bumble bee, is a type of bee found in the the east and upper Midwest of the United States.
Bumble bee’s help pollinate up to 65 different types of plants and is the primary pollinator for many agricultural crops including: apples, cranberries and plums. Consequently, the decline in numbers could have a detrimental affect on the ecosystem as many animals and birds feed off of the agriculture the Bombus Affinis helps pollinates. In addition, crops sustained by the bumble bee’s pollination process can also be damaged putting apple, cranberry and plum crops at risk.
Why are Bumble Bees endangered?
A 2008 study published in the journal of “Biodiversity and Conservation” found three major reasons why bumble bee numbers had decreased. Sheila R. Colla and Laurence Packer, the lead researchers in the study found pesticides, loss of habitat and commercially-produced bumblebees spread pathogens to bumble bees, which in turn affected bumble bee populations.